A Guide To The Often-Missed Horn Head In Donegal

horn head donegal
Photo by Eimantas Juskevicius/shutterstock

The mighty Horn Head in Donegal is a fine spot to soak up views and ocean air.

Jutting out into the North Atlantic with some seriously epic views, Horn Head is home to sweeping panoramas, dramatic cliffs and even a WW2 lookout tower!

Part of the Donegal stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way, the mighty landscape at Horn Head is well worth a visit. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know! 

About Horn Head in Donegal

horn head donegal
Photo by Susanne Pommer/shutterstock

Around 4km north of Dunfanaghy, the Horn Head peninsula resides on the western opening of Sheephaven Bay and its breath-taking quartzite cliffs rise up to a height of about 600 ft/180m on the ocean side.

Topped with bog and heather, Horn Head is also an Irish Natural Heritage Area and seabirds such as the European shag and razorbill can be seen whirling about above. 

On a clear day (which I absolutely cannot guarantee!), you’ll be treated to views of Tory Island, Inishbofin and Inishdooey to the west, the Rosguill Peninsula to the east and Malin Head to the northeast.

The Horn Head Drive

horn head drive
Photo via Google Maps

The Horn Head Drive (or cycle, if you’ve got the stamina!) is one of my favourite things to do in Donegal. It’s a scenic drive along some very narrow roads that’ll treat you to stunning ocean and cliff views.

Chances are you’ll be leaving from Dunfanaghy or nearby. Now, you could always whack ‘Horn Head’ into Google Maps and hope for the best, but here’s what to expect.

Directions

  • Head west out of town, cross the long bridge over the inlet and then head left at the fork in the road
  • Climb the steep hill and keep heading straight on while the hills rise around you.
  • There’ll soon be another junction with a cattle grid on the right turn but carry straight on and after a kilometre or so you’ll come to a small car park where you can park up.
  • Climb the hill to the left and you’ll come to the main Horn Head lookout point, with some deadly 360-degree views of the gorgeous surrounding landscape!

The Horn Head Walk

a misty horn head
Photo by The Irish Road Trip

Now, as you can see in the photo above, Horn Head in Donegal, and this is the case with many areas of elevation in Ireland, can get very misty.

If you arrive at Horn Head on a day like the one above, PLEASE do not attempt to head walking as you could easily get disorientated near the edge of the very high cliff.

The short (1-hour) Horn Head Walk

I mentioned earlier that there’s a WW2-era lookout point (found at the top of the hill at the end of the drive) but did you know there’s an even older, Napoleonic lookout point too?

There’s a path at the east end of the car park where you can follow the trail all the way to the old Signal Tower. The trail isn’t too long, but the track can get quite wet underfoot so sensible footwear is advised.

It’s about a 1-hour walk (30 minutes to the signal station and the same back) but the dilapidated brick structure of the Signal Tower is easily recognisable, and the panoramic views are stunning. 

Things to know before visiting Horn Head

There’s a few need-to-knows before visiting Horn Head in Donegal that should make your visit a bit more enjoyable.

Take note, in particular, to the section on using common sense when visiting Horn Head – to reiterate – you need to be very careful when walking here.

1. The weather

If you have a cursory knowledge of Irish weather, then you’ll know how unpredictable it can be – expect everything from rolling mist to rain to soft blue skies. 

It’s important, if you plan on doing the Horn Head Walk, that you check the weather forecast in advance.

2. Common sense

With that in mind, be sensible and don’t go near the cliff edges. If the visibility is poor, don’t attempt any of the trails leading off from the car park. 

The weather can change in minutes at Horn Head, and you don’t want to be stuck here while surrounded by mist/fog.

3. Parking

The car park at Horn Head in Donegal isn’t very big, but it’s easily found and leads straight up to the main lookout point. There shouldn’t be any issues, only unless it’s an especially busy weekend. 

4. Places to eat nearby

If you fancy a post-walk feed, there’s plenty of great restaurants in Dunfanaghy and you can head for a ramble on the beach after.

Things to do near Horn Head in Donegal

One of the beauties about visiting Horn Head is its proximity to a clatter of other things to see and do. This is one of the reasons basing yourself in Dunfanaghy is a good shout!

Below, you’ll discover everything from beaches and castles to walks, hikes and plenty more all of which are nice and close to Horn Head in Donegal.

1. Beaches

Marble Hill
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

Horn Head is close to many of the best beaches in Donegal. Falcarragh (24 minutes), Marble Hill (18 minutes), Portnablagh (13 minutes) and Killahoey (14 minutes) are all within easy reach.

2. Glenveagh

Photos of the Glenveagh Castle and area
Photo left: Benjamin B (shutterstock.com). Photo right: Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

Glenveagh National Park (39 minutes away) is another solid option for those of you in search of things to do near Horn Head in Donegal.

Home to Glenveagh Castle and an endless number of walks, this scenic chunk of Donegal is well worth spinning over to.

3. Mount Errigal

mount errigal hike
Photos via shutterstock.com

If you fancy stretching your legs, give the Mount Errigal hike a go. The starting point is a handy 35-minute drive from Horn Head in Donegal and the views you’ll be treated to are out of this world.

Ards Forest Park (21-minutes away) is another great spot for a stroll, and it’s home to everything from beaches and dunes to forest trails.

4. Treat yourself

hot tub at the shandon spa
Photo by The Irish Road Trip

Horn Head is a short, 20-minute drive from one of the best spa hotels in Donegalthe Shandon. This is the perfect spot if you fancy some post-walk pampering.

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